New Delhi/Chandigarh, Nov 11 In view of the increasing number of farm fires in Punjab, the state government has called a meeting of all the District Collectors along with the Chairpersons and Member Secretary of the Commission of Air Quality Management in Delhi and surrounding areas (CAQM) on Friday, an official said.
CAQM Chairperson M.M. Kutty and Member Secretary Arvind Nautiyal along with Punjab Chief Secretary will attend the meeting, to be held virtually.
“The meeting is being held to monitor how the enforcement measures are in place, just to update the system,” Punjab Pollution Control Board (PCCB) chief Krunesh Garg said.
Like each year, post the kharif crop harvesting time, this year too, stubble burning incidences have been taking place despite claims by the Centre and state governments of putting in place first awareness measures, offering alternatives to burning, including paddy management, and also having punitive measures.
Delhi-NCR suffers as the meteorological factors bring in the pollutants from Punjab and Haryana, and the capital’s Air Quality Index (AQI) in has been continuously in the “very poor” to “severe category” or even worse for almost a week now.
A comparison of farm fires in Punjab as on November 10 showed that there were 51,000 stubble burning incidents registered compared to 66,000 fires for the same time last year. “Plus burnt areas have also been reduced,” Garg said.
“The overall numbers have come down, but that window has come when the actual numbers grow,” he said.
To a question about why the awareness drives and the alternatives offered have not shown any impact on the ground, he said: “This is a very different problem with a bigger dimension. It cannot be handled in three-four years. We will have to change the perspective of the farmers, people; we will have to provide the infrastructure and change crop patterns. People are in a different crop cycle, when they are asked to change it, they are scared if they will be able to grow wheat? They are apprehensive of the changing practices.”
Punjab has been promoting certain practices that will either reduce or completely stop stubble burning, for example, the practice of dead sowing of wheat within the paddy straw. “Earlier generation just burnt away the stubble residue. The current generation will need some time to understand the practice, whether it is going to fetch them a good crop or not? The number of people turning to this practice is growing every year. It will take time but happen eventually,” said a hopeful Garg.